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Runners Decry Damage to Shedd Park

December 6, 2018

LOWELL -- All the raking and weed whacking that cross country coach Scott Ouellet and his team did at Shedd Park was wiped away in the blink of an eye.

As his Lowell High School boys squad returned from a successful state meet, their happiness turned into depression as they saw the park’s dangerous conditions with mud and ruts from a bike race on Nov. 18.

“I just kept coming back to sadness,” Ouellet said in the wake of the BRC Cyclocross Race at Shedd Park.

He and others told the City Council on Tuesday about the need to repair the park to its original condition.

Joe Cady, the bike race promoter, said that restoration efforts are underway.

He said they’ve been out there numerous times, hours on end, to bring it back to the way it was.

The first 13 years of the race were dry, resulting in minimal damage, but this year was a wet course, he said. Cady called it “extenuating circumstances.”

“I don’t want it to be damaged, or for their to be the impression we don’t take care of it,” said Cady, a city-employed engineer.

Councilors emphasized that the city should not pay a dime for the repairs.

In response, Cady said there will be no expense to the city.

“It was never our intention for the city to foot any bill,” he said. “We’re going to take care of all of it.”

City Councilor Dave Conway made a motion for City Manager Eileen Donoghue to provide a report on the race, and on the estimated costs to repair the damaged areas.

He hammered the bike group for holding a race that day, considering the wet surface.

“Any adult would have taken a look at those conditions, and known they could not have a race,” Conway said. “There is absolutely no good explanation.”

He pointed to the destruction of property statute in Massachusetts General Law, and how a misdemeanor offense results in up to 2.5 years in the House of Correction.

“We obviously don’t want to put anyone in jail,” Conway said.

He also highlighted the monetary part of the statute -- three times the value of the actual damage.

“I remember my mother and father saying that when you visit someone’s home, you respect it as if it was your own,” Conway said. “I’ll never forget that.”

The bike group is attempting to repair the property, City Councilor Rita Mercier pointed out.

“I see a resolution here, to bring this park back to a beauty it once was,” she said.

Next November, the boys and girls cross country teams hope for a better course when they hold their annual alumni meet. Last month, in the days after the bike race, the conditions were “really atrocious,” said MaryBeth McKenney, the girls cross country coach.

“It was nearly impossible to run in those conditions,” she said. “Please hold groups accountable and repair the park.”

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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